The Walt Disney Company has hit out at Scarlett Johansson's breach of contract lawsuit, arguing it shows "callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic."
The Black Widow star said in a court filing on Thursday (thanks, Variety) that Disney's decision release her solo Marvel movie on Disney Plus at the same time it hit theaters was in breach of her contract. She also alleges the move has cost her millions of dollars in backend compensation, given that certain of her bonuses are conditional on hitting box office targets that Black Widow probably won't achieve as a result of its existence on the home streaming service.
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"Disney intentionally induced Marvel's breach of the agreement, without justification, in order to prevent Ms. Johansson from realizing the full benefit of her bargain with Marvel," the suit reads.
In its response, Disney did not mince words. "There is no merit whatsoever to this filing," the House of Mouse spat back in a statement. "The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic."
The company added that Johansson has so far earned $20 million for the movie, and that Black Widow's Disney Plus release with Premier Access has "significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation". It's unclear whether Johansson's contract was ever renegotiated in such a way that she could get a share of streaming rental revenue.
"It's no secret that Disney is releasing films like 'Black Widow' directly onto Disney Plus to increase subscribers and thereby boost the company's stock price - and that it's hiding behind COVID-19 as a pretext to do so," John Berlinski, an attorney for Johansson, told Variety.
"But ignoring the contracts of the artists responsible for the success of its films in furtherance of this short-sighted strategy violates their rights and we look forward to proving as much in court. This will surely not be the last case where Hollywood talent stands up to Disney and makes it clear that, whatever the company may pretend, it has a legal obligation to honor its contracts."
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